At A Glance:
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Single Cup Coffee Maker
The market for single serve coffee makers is huge, and getting bigger all the time. The good news is that this means there are more options to suit your needs and your budget. The downside is that it can make choosing a machine more difficult. To guide you on your way, here are some things you should keep in mind before buying a single serve coffee maker.
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|Hamilton Beach The Scoop||
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|Black + Decker Single Serve Coffee Maker||
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|DeLonghi Nespresso Pixie||
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|AdirChef Grab N’ Go||
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|AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker||
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- Water reservoir: 75 oz
- Dimensions: 13.1 x 9.9 x 12.7 inches
- Brews with: K-Cups, My K-Cup
- Water reservoir: 14 oz
- Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.7 x 8.7 inches
- Brews with: Ground coffee
- Water reservoir: 48 oz
- Dimensions: 13.3 x 9.8 x 13 inches
- Brews with: K-Cups, My K-Cup
- Water reservoir: 12 oz
- Dimensions: 12.1 x 4.5 x 11.3 inches
- Brews with: K-Cups, My K-Cup
- Water reservoir: 16 oz
- Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.9 x 12.1 inches
- Brews with: Coffee grounds, ESE pods
- Water reservoir: 24 oz
- Dimensions: 4.4 x 12.8 x 9.3 inches
- Brews with: Nespresso capsules
- Water reservoir: 15 oz
- Dimensions: 6.7 x 5.1 x 10.1 inches
- Brews with: Ground coffee
- Water reservoir: 8 oz
- Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 9.5 inches
- Type of machine: Manual
Capsules, pods, or ground coffee
What you put into your coffee maker is going to be one of the biggest influences on the kind of coffee you get out of it. We’re not just talking about the choice between coffee and espresso, but the quality of the coffee. And after all, isn’t that the most important thing?
Capsules – Think of a single serve coffee maker and you’re most likely thinking of a capsule machine. It’s these prepackaged containers that make single serve brewers so quick and convenient. All you need to do is insert the capsule and press a button. It also makes brewing coffee easy, even for people with absolutely no experience.
There are some downsides, however. First is the fact that you can only use coffee capsules compatible with your particular machine. This limits your choice of coffee as well as increasing the cost. The second is the quality. Coffee is at its best for just 30 minutes after grinding, so any capsule you put in your machine will be long past its peak (1).
Capsules are often called pods, and single serve machines are even sometimes called pod machines, but keep in mind these aren’t the same thing.
Pods – ESE (easy serve espresso) pods consist of a portion of pre-ground coffee pressed between paper filters. They look like teabags, but instead of dunking them in your cup, you insert them into your coffee machine. ESE coffee pods were originally designed for use in espresso machines, so they are capable of making a true espresso with a rich flavor. But at the end of the day, they suffer the same issue of not being entirely fresh.
You might also come across something known as soft pods, which are similar to ESE pods, but not packed as tightly.
Ground coffee – Freshly ground coffee is going to get you the best tasting brew, hands down. Using your own coffee also gives you a much greater choice of beans than if you use prepackaged capsules or coffee pods. But ground coffee has one major disadvantage when it comes to using a single serve maker – it’s not convenient. The need to grind your coffee before each cup, plus the mess involved with cleaning out coffee grounds, is one of the reasons that capsule machines remain so popular.
If you don’t like the thought of capsules, but grinding beans seems like too much work, consider a machine with a built-in grinder.
One thing that can’t be overlooked is the environmental impact of pod or capsule machines. The nature of single serve brewing means that each coffee you brew requires prepackaged grounds of some kind, creating waste with every cup. As of the end of 2021, both Nespresso and Keurig offer recyclable capsules, but just because they can be recycled, doesn’t mean they are.
…of the 39,000 capsules produced worldwide every minute, 29,000 of them end up in landfills.Wirecutter
Nespresso’s aluminum capsules need to be mailed back to the company for recycling, while Keurig K-Cups have to be manually emptied of grounds, then separated into their aluminum and plastic parts before they can be responsibly disposed of.
For those that already own a capsule machine but want to reduce their waste, both Nespresso and Keurig offer reusable capsules. These are plastic or metal capsules that can be refilled with your own coffee grounds, though they aren’t compatible with all models.
The paper filter used on ESE pods is biodegradable, so these single serve options can be added to your compost – it’s one of their selling points. What’s not usually pointed out, however, is that to keep the coffee as fresh as possible, many brands of coffee pods are individually wrapped in plastic.
One of the advantages of single serve coffee makers is that they tend to be more compact than those that brew carafes. This is helpful for use in small kitchens, or even just for people that don’t want to dedicate much counter space to their brewing.
These coffee makers are all designed to brew one cup at a time, but that doesn’t mean they’re designed in the same way. The smallest will have a reservoir that only fits enough water for one coffee. This makes them extra compact, but the downside is that you’ll need to refill it before each brew. If you prefer not to refill every day, you can sacrifice a smaller footprint for a more generous water tank.
Versatility and Ease of Use
Maybe you’re not the only coffee drinker in our house, or maybe you just like to mix things up from time to time. If this is the case, you’ll want a single serve coffee maker that features options to customize your brew. The most common options you’ll see on single serves is cup sizes and brew strength, but higher end models might also let you program brew temperature or time to switch on automatically.
Just be aware that the more features you add, the more steps are required to make your coffee. If the amount of energy you have first thing in the morning only extends to pressing a single button, then perhaps a simpler machine is better for you.
The best single serve coffee makers will have features like a removable water reservoir and dishwasher safe parts for ease of use and cleaning. And like all coffee makers, they will require descaling, but by using a water filter you can extend the time between cleans.
Best Single Serve Coffee Makers
Whether you opt for capsules, coffee pods, or ground coffee, there’s a machine out there for you. Here are some of the best single serve coffee maker options we’ve tried.
One of the most versatile and feature-rich single-serve coffee makers on the market, the Keurig K-Elite is a step up from the K-Classic in a lot of ways. That being said, it retains Keurig’s hallmark user-friendliness. It’s still a great choice for a swift coffee first thing, thanks to the brewing time of under a minute. But it also has some extra bells and whistles to justify its higher price.
Single serve coffee makers often don’t have many options for customizing your brew, but this is what sets the K-Elite apart. You can program your brew temperature between 187° and 192°, and you have the choice of regular or strong brews. There’s also an iced coffee setting to make a concentrated coffee suitable for pouring over ice. Brew time is less than a minute, but if you don’t like to wait, you can program the K-Elite to switch on automatically at a certain time.
The K-Elite has the option of five different cup sizes, ranging from 4 oz up to a hefty 12 oz. Depending on which cup size you choose, you’ll be able to get around eight cups of coffee before refilling the machine, thanks to the large 75 oz water reservoir.
The drip tray is removable for easy cleaning, and also helps to accommodate larger cups and mugs. It can hold an entire brew’s worth of coffee, so it’s less likely to overflow. For more of a deep clean, the machine will alert you when it’s time to descale.
For a single serve coffee maker with even more features, including a milk frother, you might consider the Keurig K-Cafe.
While most single serve coffee makers rely on capsules of some kind, The Scoop uses ground coffee. The need to grind your own beans is going to eliminate some of the convenience that characterizes a single serve coffee maker, but the quality of the coffee from freshly ground beans is going to make up for it.
“It’s cheaper in the long run than capsule-based coffee makers, which is always worth considering.”Brian, Aromacup.com
This single serve coffee machine also recovers a few convenience points with the speed. It can make a standard 8 oz cup of java in less than 90 seconds and can fill 14 oz travel mugs in about 2 ½ minutes. It’s perfect if you want to brew and run.
The Scoop offers versatility with your brew, without any complicated functions. The amount of water you add to the reservoir is the amount of coffee that the machine will dispense. And likewise, you fill the mesh filter up with the exact amount of grounds you want to use – though there are some measurement lines for guidance.
The only button you need to press is the “regular” or “bold” brew option. The bold button dispenses the hot water at a slower flow rate to give it more time in contact with the grounds, resulting in a stronger cup of coffee. This will add to your brew time, however.
The permanent filter means that there’s no need for the paper kind, so you don’t have to deal with any extra waste other than your coffee grounds. And with an automatic shut-off after the brew cycle, you’re going to be saving on power too.
For most people, a single serve coffee maker means a Keurig machine, with these coffee makers found in around one-third of US homes (2). The Keurig K-Classic coffee maker sits mid-range in the brand’s extensive line-up, and even with the release of more high-tech machines, this continues to be a bestseller (3).
It’s speedy, with a brewing time of around one minute. And for ease of use, it’s hard to beat. Put in a K-Cup, press a button and moments later you’re drinking one of more than 75 different brands and 400 varieties of coffee. It’s a good machine for those who don’t want to mess around with too many settings. The only options here are your brew sizes, with options for 6 oz, 8oz, or 10 oz cups. You can change things up by using your own ground coffee in a reusable My K-Cup, which is sold separately.
This single serve coffee maker has a generous removable water reservoir, holding 48 ounces, enough for around six cups of coffee before you have to worry about refilling it. It’s also relatively easy to clean. It has a removable drip tray, though it doesn’t have a descaling function so you’ll need to clean it regularly with vinegar if your tap water is hard.
Overall, this is a great, versatile single serve coffee maker for the money, and is perfect for a busy morning or a small office environment.
At one time, the smallest Keurig coffee maker on the market was the Mini K-15 – the best option for anyone with limited space. The K15 has sadly been discontinued, but the good news is that the Keurig K-Mini that replaces it is not only slimmer, it’s also something of an upgrade.
Despite the smaller design, the K-Mini has a slightly bigger water reservoir. At 12 ounces, it’s not large by any stretch of the imagination but does mean you can now brew enough for a travel mug. The drip tray has also been adjusted for the new drink sizes – once it’s removed you can fit a 7-inch travel mug underneath.
It’s designed to be refilled after every coffee, with the amount you add determining the strength and size of your drink. Unlike the larger Keurig machines, it doesn’t have a removable water reservoir.
Apart from the amount of water you use, there are no options for customizing your brew with the K-Mini, but that can be one of the joys of a single serve coffee maker. You simply add the K-Cup, press the brew button and you’ll have your drink in under two minutes. And with an auto-off feature that kicks in after 90 seconds, you don’t even have to remember to shut it off.
Here’s another small brewer that won’t take up much room on the counter, or money from your account. You may wonder what a power tool company is doing making coffee machines, but don’t worry, Black + Decker has also been making kitchen appliances since the 1980s.
The result of these decades of experience is an excellent little coffee maker without the premium price tag attached to models of more renowned coffee brands.
It’s ideal for small apartments or a shared space like a dorm, thanks to its small footprint. It’s also great for the morning after the night before, as you just have to press one button to get a well-brewed cup of coffee.
The filter basket is suitable for either ground coffee or ESE pods – making this the only personal coffee maker on the list that works with these. As with the Hamilton Beach Scoop, the strength and quantity of coffee are determined by how much grounds and water you add – with a capacity of up to 16 oz.
What we think makes the Black + Decker a perfect machine for early starts (as well as great value for money) is the inclusion of the stainless steel thermal travel mug. The 16 oz mug fits under the spout, so you can be directly into it and head out the door. It’s even designed to fit into your car’s cup holder.
Considering the price, the size, and the convenience, this is one of the best budget coffee makers out there. If you’re a student, or you’re moving into your first apartment, this is the coffee maker for you.
Keurig might be the market leader for personal coffee machines in the US, but elsewhere it’s Nespresso that reigns supreme (4). While Keurigs mimic drip coffee, Nespresso coffee makers create an espresso-style brew.
The Pixie will give rich, concentrated shots thanks to the 19 bars pump, which goes above and beyond what’s required for espresso (5). If it’s a little strong for your tastes, there’s also a button for a lungo coffee, which uses twice the amount of water. Beyond that, there’s no option to customize your coffee, with the focus here being convenience and speed.
What we love about this machine is just how fast it is. It will go from cold to ready to brew in 25-30 seconds, and thanks to the thermoblock heating system, it can brew coffee in just 25 seconds (6).
The Pixie is easy to clean, as the pods are automatically ejected into an internal space, and the foldable drip tray helps to avoid spillages. Plus, it has a 9-minute auto-shutoff, so you don’t have to worry if you forget to turn it off yourself. But you don’t have to switch it on again after every cup.
If you love having an espresso each morning but don’t want to pay the huge price that comes with a fully-fledged espresso machine, then this is a great way to go.
As the name suggests, the AdirChef Grab N’ Go is designed for people who want to drink their coffee on the road. Included is a dishwasher safe 15 oz travel mug that fits snugly into the coffee maker instead of the usual glass carafe, so you can brew into it directly.
The mug itself is insulated stainless steel, so you can continue to enjoy hot coffee for hours. It features a leak-proof lid, a cool-touch silicone band for added grip, and has a tapered base to fit into most cup holders.
Even if you don’t plan to take your coffee anywhere, this is still a great little machine to consider. The small footprint means it will fit into pretty much any kitchen, and with the single button start you can brew coffee without even thinking.
The Grab N’ Go uses coffee grounds only, so you will need to grind your own beans or opt for the pre-ground stuff. The upside to this is that you can choose whatever coffee you like, and adjust the strength of your coffee by adding more grounds to the basket. The built-in fine mesh filter eliminates the need for paper filters, so there’s no extra waste to worry about.
The fact that it’s electric means it’s not suitable for camping, but it’s small and light enough to pack in your suitcase for weekends away or business trips.
If you want to keep your coffee hot but don’t need to go anywhere, check out our guide to the best coffee makers with thermal carafe.
The AeroPress is a firm favorite among travelers as one of the most portable coffee makers but it’s often overlooked as an alternative to a single serve coffee maker. But we think that’s doing this little brewer a disservice.
Unlike other manual brewing methods, such as a pour over, the AeroPress doesn’t require any special equipment like a gooseneck kettle. It’s also a faster process than you might expect. Once you’ve boiled the water, the standard brew method for an espresso-style coffee takes less than a minute (7).
Constructed from just three pieces of BPA-free plastic, there are no settings to adjust here. But it’s one of the most versatile bits of gear you can own. There are countless espresso and coffee recipes for the AeroPress, which will get you everything from French press style to cold brew and even concentrate that can be diluted when you’re brewing for friends.
Cleaning the AeroPress is a breeze. The used grounds form a solid, dry puck that can be ejected from the chamber with a satisfying “pop”. The machine parts then just need a quick rinse.
Compared to the other single serve coffee makers on this list, it does have the disadvantage of needing to boil the water separately. But this is what makes it good for camping. There’s no electricity needed, so if you have a camp stove or even a fire to heat your water, you can get a hot coffee with the AeroPress.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you to try the AeroPress, it’s also proudly American-made.
A single serve coffee maker is an ideal choice for anyone that just wants a quick, consistent cup of coffee each morning without needing to brew a whole pot. The best of these machines will have a fast brew time and no complicated settings to deal with, and of course, provide a great-tasting cup of coffee.
That’s why our pick for the best single serve coffee maker is the Keurig K-Elite. It’s fast and versatile but still has the user-friendliness and convenience that makes Keurig machines so popular.
No, you can’t use a Nespresso capsule twice to make two different cups of coffee – the second cup will be too weak and watery. However, some people will run the brew cycle twice with a single capsule to make a larger, Americano-style coffee.
No, you can’t put K-Cups in a regular coffee maker. Regular drip coffee makers are designed use coffee grounds in a filter basket. If you no longer have access to a single serve machine, but still have leftover K-Cup pods, it is possible to open them up and empty the grounds into the filter for brewing.
You clean a single cup coffee maker by filling the water reservoir with a mixture of water and white vinegar, then running the brew cycle without any capsule or filter. The brew cycle should then be repeated using clean water until you can no longer detect the smell of vinegar.
To make a double shot with ESE pods you’ll need to brew two separate shots using a new coffee pod each time. It’s not recommended that you insert two pods into the machine at once. Alternatively, some brands sell a double shot ESE pod that contains more coffee grounds.
You cannot make espresso in an AeroPress. Like a Moka pot, it doesn’t produce the required 9 bars of pressure for making true espresso. However, with the right grind size and pressure applied, the AeroPress has the ability to brew something closely resembling espresso shots.
- Martin, T. (2018, April 19). 7 tips that will change The way you brew coffee at home. CNET. Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.cnet.com/home/kitchen-and-household/these-tips-will-change-the-way-you-brew-coffee-at-home/.
- Perelmutter, S. (2021, March 1). How many US households became Keurig users during the pandemic? Xtalks. Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://xtalks.com/how-many-us-households-became-keurig-users-during-the-pandemic-2613/.
- Freedman, L. (2020, January 24). The Best Keurig Machines for Quick and Easy Coffee at Home. Kitchn. Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.thekitchn.com/best-k-cup-coffee-maker-22987588.
- Europe coffee pods and capsules market: 2021. Mordor Intelligence. (n.d.). Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/europe-coffee-pods-and-capsules-market.
- Kilbride, D. (2020, November 11). How does pressure affect espresso quality? Perfect Daily Grind. Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2017/06/how-does-pressure-affect-espresso-quality/.
- Thermoblock: Knowledge base. Giesen Coffee Roasters. (2021, July 19). Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://www.giesencoffeeroasters.eu/knowledge-base/thermoblock/.
- Getting started with the Aeropress Coffee Maker. AeroPress. (2021, September 24). Retrieved October 4, 2021, from https://aeropress.com/use-it-now/getting-started/.
Husband, father and former journalist, I’ve combined my love of writing with my love of coffee to create this site. I love high end products, but write all my content with budget conscious coffee enthusiasts in mind. I prefer light roasts, and my normal brew is some sort of pour over, although my guilty pleasure is the occasional flat white.